Review: The Accident Did Not Take Place. York Theatre Royal

By Katie Marks

The Accident Did Not Take Place is an hour-long expedition into the trials and tribulations of the technological age. Bringing their production to the York Theatre Royal Studio, YesYesNoNo are a young and innovative company, who use multimedia theatre to explore “what connection might look like in a digital world.”

The regular ensemble of The Accident Did Not Take Place comprised of three primary company membersEmma Clark, Tilda O’Grady and Jon Hawkins. They were then joined by a new actor every night, one who (as we were informed at the beginning of the piece) had never read, seen, or acted in the show before. This made for an inspired addition to the piece, as a guest performer was brought into the experience of the audience every night. As audience members, we were able to watch the performer progress in confidence, a parallel movement to our own gradually clarifying understanding of the meaning of the work.

The first half of the piece centres on a plane crash. The guest-performer is instructed by one of the company members in their role as a panicked passenger. What follows is a series of short movements and snippets of dialogue that form the passenger’s last known moments within the plane. Meanwhile, the three regular company members rotated roles, playing passengers, a crew member, and instructor to the guest performer.

This scene is repeated multiple times, becoming gradually more concise and minimal, until the entire descent is communicated through a series of jerky, interpretive dance movements. It’s an engaging half hour, and a tribute to the creativity of the troupe, that an audience can remain entertained and transfixed by the same short scene, made up of a few simple lines and repeated movements.

The guest actor of the night (introduced to the audience as ‘Millie’) gave a strong performance. Her panic and devastation at the situation is entirely believable and made all the more impressive due to her new engagement with the piece.

One of my favourite touches was provided by the set and costume design, which were uniformly produced in varying shades of pink. Throughout the piece, the three main company members all wear one article of pink clothing, and a narrow hot pink carpet is used to represent the aisle of the crashing plane.  The ‘insta-friendly’ homogenous aesthetics of the entire production, highlighted the way technology allows us to consume tragedy as visual entertainment.

The company also communicated this unnerving message through their use of technology within the piece. Each character’s final moments were plotted out with paper dolls within a light box, translating their desperate attempts at self-preservation into a robotically choreographed, artificial routine.

During the second half of the piece, the plane is left behind and the focus of the shifts to Millie as we attempt to get to know her better. She is asked a series of questions within the linguistic framework of: “what do you look like when…”. On an entirely external level, we learn a great deal more about her. We learn what she looks like when she’s happy, what she looks like when she’s sad, what she looked like as a baby, and what she looks like when she dances, but does this mean we know her?

A theme that reoccurs throughout the piece (one that is frequently voiced to Millie) is the dizzyingly paradoxical sense of distance and isolation that pervades throughout this close encounter. Even though both Millie and the company come incredibly close to us an audience, there is a persistent sense that they remain far away, and entirely out of reach.

For me, this encapsulates the core message of the piece: that even in the age of social-media, we’ve never been closer to each other, and yet, at the same time, we’ve never been further away.

The Accident Did Not Take Place is an engaging and innovative critique of the information age, and YesYesNoNo are certainly a company to watch.

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